Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Which Side Are You On?

Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis “COWL volume 1:  Principles of Power” (Image, 2014)

Like so many Image comics, the high concept for this is simple:  Mad Men meets Watchmen.  It’s 1962, and the Chicago Organized Workers League has protected the city of Chicago for a number of years.  But their contract is up for renewal, and the city wants to lowball them.

If ever there were a concept that called out for some real class analysis in a superhero world, it’s COWL.  Unionized heroes?  Labor struggle in a city with organized crime and super criminals?  There’s a lot to chew on here.

Unfortunately, Higgins takes the easy way out.  This is more Mad Men than Marx.  There are bits of proto-feminist critique, but nothing truly significant, and it feels somewhat perfunctory.  If anything, Higgins’ tired deconstruction of the superhero tropes undercuts any real possibility for a radical critique.  As far as the reader can tell, the city negotiators are correct.  They don’t need to fully fund COWL any more.  And the members of COWL are assholes, so they lose our sympathy.

What should have been an opportunity for unique class discussion becomes nothing more than reheated Watchmen style “the capes are bad guys”. *sigh*

The art as provided by Alec Siegel and Rod Reis is fantastic.  By abandoning the normal house styles from the Big Two, the visual implication is that we are looking back into another time.  Perfectly fitting with the story’s setting.

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